Wolff ‘cannot comprehend’ 2023 qualifying gap between Red Bull team mates Verstappen and Perez
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has declared the 2023 qualifying gap between Red Bull team mates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez “odd” and “bizarre” following the Dutch Grand Prix qualification session.
Verstappen took pole position at Zandvoort by a commanding 0.537s from McLaren’s Lando Norris, with Mercedes’ George Russell slotting into P3 with a late effort – as the team’s other driver Lewis Hamilton was a shock knock-out in Q2, taking P13.
However, also notable was the 1.313s qualifying gap between Verstappen and Perez, who took P7 on the grid – with Wolff saying after the session that he was struggling to understand the gap between the Red Bull pair, Perez having also endured a run of five consecutive races earlier this year where he failed to make Q3.
“Odd. Bizarre,” said Wolff when asked about the discrepancy. “Checo [Perez] is not an idiot… Checo's a Grand Prix winner, and he was at Racing Point, so I cannot comprehend [the gap].
“We've seen that Max has destroyed every single team mate that was with him. Whether it's his ability to create a car around himself that's just very tricky to control but fast if you can, and that makes those gaps… But 1.3s – I don't have, obviously, any explanations. But odd.”
Meanwhile, Wolff also commented on the qualifying performance of his own driver Russell – who declared self-critically after taking P3 on the grid: “Quali was one of my strengths at the start of the year, and it’s just been going a little bit wrong recently.”
“I'm trying to really bang into his head that he hasn't lost his form, that it's just a myth that he's making up,” retorted Wolff on Saturday evening. “You don't unlearn to drive and you don't lose your form.
“You can have ups and downs like all of us have, and racing drivers too, but every single weekend when things have gone against him, it was pretty clear why that was, and it wasn't the driving. In that respect, it's no such thing that in Spa or in Budapest your capability of moving this car is less good than it is three weeks later in Holland.
“So I think he just needs to have a clean weekend and he didn't have these clean weekends before – and that one was much better.”